September 26, 2016

The importance of LGE

Dear Editor,
Most of you reading this letter who live in Guyana are probably still undecided as to who you should vote for in the Local Government Elections (LGE). And if perchance you have made up your mind it is more so because you think it your civic responsibility to vote, rather than the fact that you are convinced of whom to vote.
Many of you might have even decided to do like Bruno Mars and “Lay in my bed.”
Editor, these ten months have not been very kind to the Guyanese electorate. The young government is still sputtering trying to find their footing. The Opposition doesn’t know if they are going or coming and so have taken the position of opposing everything; even the beautification of Guyana. And the independent groups and candidates have failed to sufficiently capture the imagination of those looking for alternatives.
There is a feeling of both frustration and mistrust among the electorate and this has resulted in electoral apathy. The irony of the matter is that this perfect storm of disillusionment and electoral lethargy could not have come at a worse time for this fledgling country. The central government will not and cannot hire all the help they need; nonetheless, the country has to move forward.
Yet, just when we are experiencing the worse political fear in our history, the electorate have thrown their hands in the air, turned their backs on the political process, and are saying ‘que sera sera’.
In a country that has for years been dominated by a two-party, racially divided kind of electioneering, it is difficult to get the troops to march without issuing direct marching orders. The PPP/C, as a party, does not have the money to rally their troops.
And the coalition cannot use much of its money to rally their troops – for Clement Rohee has one eye on them and one on his job – so the masses of both parties are left stagnant or are rambling about like headless chickens.
The PPP/C has been having their get-out-the-vote rallies in their strongholds and the APNU/AFC coalition has followed suit. But neither could really tell their listeners what to do.
There is a sense of distrust and disenchantment among the PPP/C supporters, while the Coalition finds its self in an ethical dilemma of appearing to want to run both the Local and the Central Governments.
It has turned out that the very fear the PPP/C had for not wanting to call LGE, is the same fear the new government has. So much so that both the President and the Prime Minister took a pause from governing centrally and directly interjected themselves into the local race. That risky move, however, might have been too much too late.
If there are any bright spots about the whole LGE saga, it is that the spirit of community looms large. As I walked my district and spoke with folks, they talked of their desires and dreams of a safer, cleaner, more unified and financially sound community.
Many have said to me that they are not voting but it is not because they are not concerned with the development of their local communities. Rather, it is because they feel a sense of political disillusionment. And while some of us on the scene have never been tried, or indeed, are not politicians, we are all being made to feel the wrath of a politically indifferent citizenry.
I entered the race not knowing what to expect. I was blindsided! People complained to me and addressed me as if I were one of the persons for whom they had previously voted.
One lady on Leopold Street said that she is not voting for me because GPL cut off her lights, “for a measly $2000 when there are big companies owing them millions”.
I was reminded of the fact that politicians make all kinds of promises and then when they get into office, “you can’t find them”. Some Rasta brethren on Durban Street said that they would vote for me if I promise to legalise marijuana. Then there was this young pregnant girl who said, “If I vote for you, will you help me with baby clothes?”
As I walked my district I saw folks living in squalor. So as to cheer myself up, I sang as I walked. I saw overflowing sewer systems with raw sewage flowing into yards and homes; I saw broken water pipes left running; I saw stagnant drains and mosquito ridden gutters; I saw young men, unemployed, gambling and smoking to pass the time; I saw abandon homes with weed-infested yards; I saw dogs looking hungry; I saw very poor looking young girls, pregnant; as I walked my district of the
Wortmanville/Werk-en-Rust area, I saw people who need these Local Government Elections.
Yet, because of the prevailing sense of political dissatisfaction, these very folks will boycott the LGE in droves.
Editor, this letter brings me to the end of my commentary on the LGE. In my campaign I have been out-spent and out-manoeuvred by groups and individuals who could have afforded more than me but I fought valiantly.
I therefore would like to thank my constituents, first for nominating me and then for allowing me to interact with them at such a personal level.
When the dust is settled, one of the six contestants in my district will win; no matter how many folks turn out to vote. I promise that I will work with whoever wins because I was doing what I do long before I had the opportunity to run for councillor. I pray only, however, that the winner does not squander the trust of the residents in this constituency, for whether or not they turn out to vote, God knows, they need a good councillor to represent their cause.

Pastor Wendell Jeffrey,
Wortmanville/Werk-en-Rust/Stabroek District #8

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